By Katarzyna Ignatik, ’20
Carin Harner, instructional coach with Hillsdale’s Barney Charter School Initiative, calls Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty “beautifully written with rich content, a view into the old world of horse and man.”
Black Beauty, written in England in the nineteenth century, is a children’s story about a horse named Beauty and his experiences throughout his life. Harner lists some of the many themes which are present throughout the book, including “kindness to man and beast alike, striving to do your best, perseverance, fortitude, and the importance of friendship, among others.”
Harner highlights perseverance as one of the key messages of the book. As she points out, Beauty the horse endures many difficult and even horrific circumstances, among them abusive treatment and illness. These test Beauty’s continued adherence to lessons in kindness learned from his mother in his youth. “It is a story that indirectly asks of us, could we do the same in similar circumstances?” Harner says.
One of Harner’s favorite characters is John Manly, a coachman from Beauty’s youth. “He is a true ‘horse whisperer’ but also has a great understanding of the character of men,” Harner says. “He sets an excellent example and provides many words of wisdom, among them ‘It is hard hearted and cowardly to hurt the weak and helpless’ and ‘There is nothing like doing a good kindness when ’tis put in your way.’” Characters like Beauty’s mother and John Manly provide both Beauty and young readers with wisdom as they grow.
Harner suggests teaching the book chapter by chapter, giving enough time to process and discuss the lessons the book teaches.
Click here for a downloadable (PDF format) Black Beauty poster for use in your classroom.